Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Sandin, Liljegren, Robertson & Steeves

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at Rasmus Sandin’s return to game action this weekend. Second, I’ll look at two injured roster members who have only yesterday begun to skate – those are John Tavares and Timothy Liljegren.

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Third, I’ll report that the Maple Leafs have a player who’s tied for the lead in preseason scoring – Nick Robertson. But, does this mean that he’ll break the training camp with a roster spot? Finally, I’ll look at one young player who remains with the team – Alex Steeves.

Item One: Rasmus Sandin Should Play on the Weekend

Earlier this week, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that his plan is to get newly-signed Rasmus Sandin into some games at the end of this week. That means he’ll likely suit up for both games of the home-and-home series between the Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sandin didn’t play on Monday night against the Canadiens, but he’ll no doubt be ready by the end of the week. He reported after his first practice on Sunday that he felt better than he thought he would. His signing on Thursday to a two-year $1.4 million per season was a great move forward for the team. 

Item Two: John Tavares Has Returned to the Ice

According to a report by Sports Illustrated, John Tavares’ oblique injury has apparently healed enough to allow him to resume skating. However, there’s word that his skating has not changed his prognosis for returning to the team. Tavares is scheduled to miss at least the first six games of the regular season.

Related: Tavares Takes Pressure off Maple Leafs’ Young Stars

Tavares joined a number of other Maple Leafs’ players who were working with the team’s conditioning staff. Those other players included both Timothy Liljegren and Fraser Minten.

Item Three: Timothy Liljegren Is Back Skating

As reported above, just a short three weeks after he underwent surgery for a hernia, Liljegren is back skating. However, the 23-year-old didn’t do anything strenuous on the ice. He didn’t touch a puck and was careful with his movement; still, it was good to read that he was up and about.

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Last season was the young Swedish defenseman’s first full season in the NHL. He played 61 games, scored five goals, and registered 23 points. During the offseason, he re-upped with the team by signing a two-year, $2.8 million contract extension.

Item Four: Guess Who’s Leading the NHL’s Preseason Scoring – Nick Robertson

Nick Robertson is doing a lot of things right for someone who was – at least among many fans – a long shot to make the Maple Leafs’ roster. Among them is that he’s tied for the preseason scoring lead with both Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators) and Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks). All three players have seven preseason points.

Related: 5 NHL Records That Will Be Broken

Given that both players he’s tied with were point-a-game players last season (Meier had 76 points in 77 games while Duchene had 86 points in 78 games), that might be a foretaste of what might be coming. Maple Leafs’ fans can only hope. 

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Robertson has always had an incredible shot. In fact, his team-mate, Auston Matthews noted that Robertson “probably shoots it harder than anybody on the team.” That’s high praise from the Rocket Richard Trophy winner who totalled 60 goals himself last season.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Head coach Sheldon Keefe also has praised Robertson’s preseason noting that these preseason games “are the best I’ve seen Nick look in a Leafs’ jersey.” All that said, the jury might still be out on whether Robertson has won a spot on the team’s NHL roster. Might he still end up in the AHL? 

One difference that’s noticeable in Robertson’s game is that he’s not running all over the ice hitting anything that moves. In fact, he’s playing a much smarter game. He seems to have followed the advice of his coaching staff not to try to do too much.

Related: Meeting Maple Leafs’ Greats: Our Readers Share Their Stories

He’s also stronger on his feet. He gets knocked around, but not down. He wins puck battles. And, he’s shown an ability to be both a goal scorer and a playmaker. He remains a relentless hustler, but he seems to hustle to the right places on the ice instead of into a situation he can’t recover from.

From my perspective, it would seem wrong somehow to not keep him on the roster.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Another player who’s still with the Maple Leafs is Alex Steeves. The undrafted youngster out of Notre Dame University signed last year as a UFA with the organization. He was pursued by a number of NHL teams but chose the Maple Leafs. 

Alex Steeves Toronto Marlies
Alex Steeves, Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Although Steeves was injured early last season, he eventually put up 46 points in 58 games for the Toronto Marlies. He also played in three games for the big club. After this week’s first set of cuts, he remained a part of training camp. He’s likely to move to the Marlies but he’s looking as if he’s part of the team’s future. 

He’s looked at home on the ice during the preseason.

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